DAYTONA BEACH — Camille Holder-Brown and Omar Brown, restaurant owners tackling the taboo associated with vegan cuisine, built their restaurant, Kale Cafe Juice Bar & Vegan Cuisine, on the premise of serving and educating the community.
“Our goal is to get the community healthy by helping to change their eating habits and food consumption,” said Omar Brown, 48.
Kale Cafe Juice Bar & Vegan Cuisine is located in Daytona Beach at 116 N. Beach St.
Camille Holder-Brown said there’s so much that people don’t know when considering the vegan route.
“We offer a healthy option for our community,” said Holder-Brown, 41. “We let people know they don’t have to sacrifice flavor. People are always so surprised that our food tastes good. They think it’s going to taste like grass clippings.”
Before branching out into the restaurant industry, Holder-Brown spent nine years as a filmmaker while Brown worked as a computer network engineer for 15 years.
The couple moved to Daytona Beach from New York in 2011. They have six children together.
Answering a call
“We started it in November of 2013 actually under a different name,” said Holder-Brown. “And then in April of 2014 we switched the name to Kale Cafe. We started as a nonprofit initially called Midtown Eco Village.”
Holder-Brown said the nonprofit was geared toward educating people about healthy eating.
“When we moved from New York, we noticed that there were a lot of people who didn’t know what tofu was,” she said. “There was nothing healthy to eat. So we started volunteering a lot. We started the mayor’s backpack giveaway, giving out free smoothies. After that, the community embraced it and we just kept growing from there.”
Holder-Brown said some of the popular menu items include the veggie burgers made in-house, made-to-order smoothies and juices. They also have a soy-free mac and cheese that’s made out of coconut milk and potatoes. But the most popular is the kale salad.
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A healthier option with a twist
“The style of cuisine is a mix of Caribbean and soul food,” said Holder-Brown.
Omar Brown said the cafe’s target customers are people who are familiar with the vegan lifestyle and those who are looking to switch it up for whatever reason.
“I would say someone who’s looking to change their lifestyle,” he said. “We market to those people who already live that type of lifestyle. It’s just the continuation. And of course you have people who are forced to change their diet. They have no other alternative but to change their lifestyle around, if they want to live.”
The couple said they’re always looking for opportunities to take things to the next level.
“We just started offering meal prep services,” said Holder-Brown. “One of our customers can’t have any carbs or sugar. So we make very specific meals for that client.”
Holder-Brown said customers have the opportunity to select items off the menu.
“For people that want to try new things, we offer free samples so people can taste it and experience it,” she said. “This is what we did when we started at the farmers market. It’s really important for us to continue that education component. People can always ask us questions about the menu.”
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Holder-Brown said the meal prep option is great for customers who don’t want to worry about cooking.
“We have a meal plan called the Athlete and they get a meal each day,” she said. “They get between 12 juices and smoothies or nut milk. They get three large salads and three desserts. Customers only have to come in every other day.”
Holder-Brown said the meal prep option is available on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Customers can pick up their food for two days at a time.
“They [customers] just keep bringing back their Tupperware and we just kind of rotate it out,” said Holder-Brown. “So there’s things like that might have different levels of that program where you don’t have to worry about. It’s a Chef’s Choice so the menu is all 100% vegan.”
Meals made easy
Holder-Brown said they work with people who have specific dietary needs.
“Some people can’t have gluten so we make them gluten-free meals,” she said. “We have quinoa and lentils, which is an option. We have a hot bar in addition to our sandwiches that are made to order. So you can come in and grab a plate — called the vegan value meal — and be on your way. If someone has any dietary restrictions, we make it tailored towards their diet.”
The couple believes is their level of service and ability to customize that separates them from other eateries.
Quality is key
“We’re really about quality,” said Holder-Brown. “We don’t cut corners. We make everything from scratch. It’s what our family eats and I’m really proud of that. We don’t serve processed food. We make everything from scratch and that is something that is really important to me.”
Holder-Brown said she and Brown started out doing the cooking, but eventually brought a staff on board to help out. They consider their staff family.
“We have an amazing staff of people that we’ve trained and they do the cooking,” said Holder-Brown.
Growing the business
Omar Brown said the pandemic has had both a positive and negative impact on their business.
“I would say positive in that we’re able to find out where we have leaks in our business,” said Brown.
Holder-Brown said the pandemic has allowed them to focus on things they’ve put off. The couple is focused on growing their business and figuring out new ways to serve their customers since they can’t come out as often.
“We were able to move forward with bottling our salad dressing,” said Holder-Brown. “It [the pandemic] also allowed us to figure out new ways to serve our customers. I think that has been super helpful in terms of just giving us clarity.”
The couple partnered with Stage Coach Sauces in Daytona Beach to bottle Judah’s salad dressing and marinade in November. The dressing is named after the youngest member of their family.
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Serving the community
There have been some negative aspects in being restaurant owners during a pandemic.
“But negatively, it’s cut into our revenue,” said Holder-Brown. “But I would say overall I think it’s more positive than negative. We’re still able to serve our community. We volunteered a lot. We partnered with the Derbyshire Place. For five months, every other week we served between 300 and 500 people free vegan meals. I didn’t know how to serve that many people at one time. But it was something we learned how to do.”
Holder-Brown said the important thing is to be of service to the community.
“So any opportunities we get to do that, we do it,” said Holder-Brown. “We were vending at the art show [Nov. 15]. We’ve been vendors at Bike Week, you name it we’ve been there. People from all walks of life are always amazed that our food tastes as good as it tastes. They always underestimate vegan food in general.”
Holder-Brown said the cafe has a Sunday brunch special that allows customers to pay what they can afford.
“We typically have a pay-what-you-can-afford, all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch,” said Holder-Brown. “We’ve only had one since COVID started. We want people to understand that eating healthy is not an elite thing. It’s not something that is for wealthy people.”
Holder-Brown said they’re grateful for the support they’ve received from the community.
“Without our community we wouldn’t have weathered all the storms we’ve encountered and stayed in business as long as we have,” she said. “We were definitely underdogs. We started off doing Kickstarter to get the money to start our business. A local teacher gave us money to help us start our business. And we’re a Black-owned business. I don’t know how many Black-businesses have been on Beach Street. But I’m just super grateful that we’re here.”
Kale Cafe Juice Bar & Vegan Cuisine
116 N. Beach St.
Daytona Beach, FL 32114
About this series
The Gem Next Door is an occasional series that highlights local entrepreneurs operating businesses in your neighborhoods. If you are the owner of a business or if you want to nominate a business for recognition, please contact reporter Erica Van Buren at [email protected] Be sure to include your name, phone number and a little bit about the history of the business.